Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last Night's Wine

I am on the verge of a long trip abroad (2.5-3 months in Australia). During this time I am going to be doing some recording with my amazing friends Julz and Leeza (of the Hussy Hicks). The week before and after I am in Australia I will be doing more recording in LA with my great friend, Frank Perricone, and after I get back in the States in the early spring I will be scheduling a recording project in Muscle Shoals and yet another in Belgium. So ......I have a LOT of space for songs.

I believe it is for this reason I have been on somewhat of a tear lately. I'm finishing partial songs that have been laying around for months, I am having drastically more successful co-writing appointments, and I'm just generally feeling good about my productivity. All of these things are happening partially because I have been fortunate enough to be around a ton of inspiring song writers as of late, but more so I believe because I just work better with a deadline. When I know there is a due date my mind just kicks into overdrive. Perhaps this is a personal flaw, but it is a flaw that I recognize and therefore (when all goes well) I can use to my advantage.

As the flood of new songs comes pouring in it makes me think of excesses, and the natural ebb and flow of things.

It is with this mindset that I entered one of my recent writing sessions. This writing session was with one of my all time favorite writing buddies, Amanda Williams. Amanda is as real as it comes and she is one smart songwriter. I'm always impressed by her ability to think mechanistically and factually about the music industry one minute and then as if flipping a switch go immediately and effortlessly into creative, flowery zen type thoughts about the specific piece of music we are creating at the time.

Amanda is a rare breed. I'm proud to call her my friend and always happy with the results of our writing.

For this last writing session I brought in a strange kind of idea (musically and lyrically). (NOTE: In addition to working better with a deadline, another thing I have learned about my creative process is that if I have a piece of a song stuck in my head I had better go ahead and finish it by any means necessary because otherwise my mind will continually jump back to that one idea no matter what else I am working on. This piece of music was one of those. I call em splinters. They must be excised)

The idea was a hangover song. I kept replaying the line "Today we pay for last night's wine" in my head. And because it was a hangover song I had kind of a jarring, peculiar feeling intro chord progression. I thought this uneasiness fit well with the subject matter.

So far the idea doesn't sound too terribly strange. Well, leave it to my twisted brain.

I told Amanda, this is a hangover song idea, but not really about a hangover per se.
It was no surprise to me that Amanda was now more enthralled. She said, "Go on".

My idea was that our country and the society therein is in a hangover state in a sense. Politicians can call it economic downturn or recession, or any other myriad of expressions but what it looks like to me is a hangover. We partied fast and hard for a few centuries and we are dealing with that morning after headache now.

I envision the "upper class men" (England, Germany, France, etc) watching "the freshman" show up to the party and just indulge and indulge and indulge. The "grown folks" at the party are sipping beer and wine. We are funneling Whiskey. We have been the life of the party for a bit, but we are learning we may need to reign it in a bit before the next kegger.

Although the song depicts the miserable scene surrounding the realization that some of our actions from last night weren't necessarily the wisest, I believe there is a lighter side to this in reality.

Much like a hangover in real life, our nation may need to take a few Tylenol and drink a ton of water in order go forward, but we will go forward having learned a little something about ourselves and how to conduct ourselves at the next party.

(NOTE: We will still be the life of the party and we will always proudly drink our whiskey.....maybe just not the entire handle next time)

Anyway, enough of my babbling, here are the lyrics:

"Last Night's Wine"
 (written by Amanda Williams and Eric Erdman on 11-7-12 )

Such a mystery
How things got to be
This cacophony of grift and grind

Painful to perceive
Freedom to extreme
Is it destiny with bloodshot eyes

We had our fun
But now it's done
Today we pay for last night's wine
Today we pay for last night's wine

Teenage fantasy
What you've done to me
Responsibility nowhere to find

Like a melody
Way to high to sing
Let the chorus cut you down to size

We had our fun
But now it's done
Today we pay for last night's wine
Today we pay for last night's wine

We joined the party late
But we caught up
One's ok
Two's too much
But three's not enough

We had our fun
But now it's done
Today we pay for last night's wine
Today we pay for last night's wine

We had our fun
But now it's done
Today we pay for last night's wine
Today we pay for last night's wine

Monday, November 19, 2012

Costume Party For Words (Part 3)

In order to cleanse my mind of anything logical and get ready to create a few songs this afternoon, I used one of my goofy mental exercises. Namely, turning words inside out and making them mean something other than what they are supposed to. Here are today's results. : (By the way: I think everyone should have some fun with words sometimes. Do it and let me know of some funny definitions you come up with)

Newsstand - What reporters have to do while waiting on a story to break

Copperhead - The nickname I give the fake tan, gym rats when they have their fresh coat of orange paint (NOTE: This is a nickname I call them VERY VERY quietly)

Rosebud - your friend at the florist

Bedrock - an action that may happen after visiting your rosebud.

Rattlesnake- thieving infant

Foreground - golf course

Shortchange - switching summertime wardrobe

Lunchbox - What happens when someone tries to steal my sammich

Mailbox - How pugilistics used to be before Laila Ali and her colleagues integrated the sport

Toolbox - the next step of making the sport open to all, an all douchebags division is instated. If either gets knocked out we all win.

Sandbox - amateur impromptu bouts that could be qualified as Toolboxing at the beach (usually stemming from a volleyball dispute or a bikini clad girl)

Background - What the loser of a Tool boxing match feels.

Starfish - it used to be just a regular old fish, It gets in one Disney film and nows he's mister big shot.

Goldfish - the executive producer for the Disney film which made Starfish a Star

Teapot - what they drink in Colorado

Fireplace - shooting range

Popcorn - dad's horrible sense of humor

Sweatshirt - time to do the laundry

Oatmeal - three times a day for a horse

Meatloaf - prevented by the little blue pill

Bedspread - step one when making a bed angel

Worksheets - step two when making a bed angel

Snowflake - indecisive skier

Meatball - worst and most blunt pick up line in history

Woodpecker - I'm gonna recommend a good sanding before use

Airbag - what you get when you buy potato chips

Aircraft - indirectly what someone who makes balloon animals is doing

Airline - day one at balloon animal college

Bridegroom - now legal in a few states

Bucktoothed - eating venison

Backhoe - well….yeah

Ballplayer - come on man, not in public

Barcode - don't grope the girls, throw up on the dance floor, or pass out while ordering a drink

Battlecry - really bad for the morale of the soldiers (and your reputation)

Birthplace - vagina

Birthrate - "Mrs Jones you have a healthy baby boy, but I have to deduct a few tenths of a point for the dismount. I'll give it 8.7"

Birthright - The skill Mrs. Jones is gonna have to work on if she wants to get that score up next time

Blockbuster - most Karate demonstrations

Bobcats - man they hate it when you do that

Cardboard - after 6 hours of a poker tournament

Cheapskate - makes it hard to not fall down during the Hokie Pokie

Chickpea - squatting

Childproof - the 3rd positive pregnancy test

Clockwise - those who master time management

Downscale - goal for a Jenny Craig member

Copycat - I'm gonna eat, lay around, and lick myself…just like felix

Cookwear - I don't know. I can't find him either and we have customers waiting for lunch

Cookout - reason the cook can't be found

Crosswalk - pretty painful according to the Bible

Crossword - INRI

Downfall - I'm not really sure how else you can do it

Downplay - a pillow fight

Forecast - about the point at which I begin wondering if I will get a bite

Ghostwriter - I'm guessing uses invisible ink

Halfback - a darn good rebate

Hedgehog - Hoarder in the Lowe's landscaping department

Highlander - Denver native

High school - CU

Housekeeper - What every homeowner is when the market is down

Network - A good way to catch fish

Nightstand - a security guard's job

Outcropping - where you can find the farmer

Overbooked - that feeling you get on Exam week

Overseer - a world traveler

Pickax - The obvious choice when excavating and given the option of spoon or ax

Redwood - you should probably get that looked at

Superimpose - what some house guests do

Underdog - Earth

Undergrowth - Earth

Understand - Earth

Underwater - Earth

Underworld - thin layer of atmosphere then a bunch of space

Wasteland - putting in yet another strip mall

Wisecrack - the drug of choice for intelligent people

Workshop - the means and ends of a woman's mission in life

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How the Echo of a Star was made a * by an Ecko

 In my readings I came across a story I had forgotten. This story is however one of my favorites so I wanna recount it now to breathe a little life back into it.

   The story is of Barry Bond's record breaking home run ball. Actually the story is about the fate of the historic ball and the path it took to get where it is today.

   I am a huge baseball fan. I played lots of sports when I was younger but baseball was far and away my favorite. I played park ball, I played for my high school team, I played on days when I wasn't required to play. I loved it. There is a reason it is America's past time. It's a great sport but it some how comes along with a bit magic, and bit of history, and most importantly of all a heap of weirdness and quirkiness unlike any other sport.

 I would play in the back yard for hours with my best friend, Hanan. We would try to invent and perfect new pitches or we would turn pretend double plays. We dreamed in baseball terms. I wanted to be Wade Boggs.

The point to all this is....we were highly invested in not just our specific team or our game that day, we were invested in the concept of baseball.

I am confident we were not alone in this.

This is why the story of Barry Bonds ball always makes me smile.

Let me say from the jump, I don't hate Barry Bonds. I don't ridicule him, because I am not sure about all the circumstances surrounding his part of baseball lore. I wasn't in his shoes. But the story involving his home run ball makes me feel good about baseball. I mean it makes me feel good about the concept of baseball. It makes me have hope for tradition. Hope for tradition in general.

This is what happened: Barry Bonds had a career that is awe inspiring. There is no doubt that Barry Bonds is one of the greatest to play the sport of baseball. You would think that would make me love him since I love the sport so dearly.'d think wrongly.

Firstly Barry played for the Giants (which instantly made him an enemy to my Braves), strike one (pun intended). Additionally, he was notoriously a diva and a person hated by his teammates (this doesn't make him an enemy of baseball by itself because there are many of the baseball greats that were known to be not so cuddly. But he supposedly went to extremes. Word on the street is he insisted on having his own locker room because he didn't even want to be around his team mates before or after the game. That's pretty bad. ) So the guy's an epic asshole. There have been other baseball heroes who were assholes. I'll let that slide. But what I and many other baseball fans refused to let slide was the fact that he obviously used performance enhancing drugs as he approached the biggest record in the sports' history.

The Juicing era of baseball was a dark scourge on the face of our beloved sport. Through the many books, rumors and yes a congressional hearing we have learned that many of the players we looked up to were indeed cheating. Sure they still had to possess amazing work ethic and skill to be good at baseball. They cheated to go from good to great.

And Barry was in the very very small group of the most egregious offenders. He went from being a fit, slightly muscular guy (I'll say the Ted Williams, DiMaggio fame) to looking like a cartoon. Barry's muscles had muscles. His skull had muscles. It was freakish. The guy looked like a marvel comic character.

As I have said , he was far from being the only person juicing. It seems to have been the norm. For this reason, I don't like bashing Barry too terribly bad. However stack on the fact that he was apparently the biggest jerk he could possibly be , AND the most important of all........he was closing in on the most heralded of all records, the homerun record, and you have yourself baseball villain numero uno.

Barry Bonds, went on to surpass Hank Aaron's record(He was passing the Mobile, AL hero....yet another reason to not like Bonds) as the person to have hit the most home runs in a career EVER (Aaron had 755, Bonds hit 756.....and continued to eventually hit 762).

This is important.

This bothered me. This bothered Hanan. This bothered people like us all over the nation that are passionate about baseball. Sure there had been cheaters, as a matter of fact there had been cheaters that were the "faces of the sport" for a decade or so. But to have the person who would obviously be put into the Hall Of Fame as the Best Power Hitter to ever live be a cheater.....that was hard to swallow.

But what could be done as a fan of baseball? Nothing.

In steps fashion designer, Mark Ecko.

I don't know ANYTHING about Mark Ecko, other than the fact I've worn a couple of his shirts, and I'm guessing he likes rhinos.

But he must either be a huge baseball fan and felt wronged like the rest of us, or he must just have so much money he doesn't know what to do with it all.

Well either way, he spent a lot of his money ($752,467.00 to be exact) to purchase the historic home run ball at an online auction.
Then he let the fans decide the fate of the ball.

Ecko made an online poll and let the people who care the most about the game vote. He let the fans vote.
The options were:
  • 1) put the ball in the Hall of Fame as is
  • 2) have the ball destroyed
  • 3) have the ball shot into space
  • 4) have it permanently emblazoned with an * to denote that it shouldn't count as the actual record and THEN be put in the Hall of Fame

The fans spoke. The votes were tallied and the fans of baseball decided to add the asterisk and send it to the Hall of Fame. So that is exactly what Mark Ecko had done.
I think this decision matters for many reasons. One, (because Mark Ecko's contribution allowed it) the fans spoke their opinion of how their sport shall be viewed by future generations. It shows that the lovers of baseball thought the actions of Bonds (and all other juicers) made them a footnote in the history of baseball as opposed to the players that naturally played the sport without "cheating". And again it showed that baseball is quirky and weird even in the Hal of Fame and record books. And it also kinda slightly made a statement about being a team player.

Barry Bonds had a bout with karma and his legacy will forever be tarnished.

Now I almost feel bad about badly Bonds got treated , but the fact that a people stood together and gave the middle finger to something they disbelieved in, makes me value what's left of baseball.

The baseball fans stood together and said we do not want to be represented by people who play and act in the way Barry did. That's a huge statement and it makes me love our weird sport even more.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Jabroni Marconi and the Nobel Prize for Douche-bag-itude

I am in Nashville. I have been here for a couple days. I filmed the final scene (well the final scene involving me anyway) for the video for "I'm Through" , ate some BBQ and then I headed out to Amanda Williams and Todd Senf's house to do some writing. Amanda and I wrote a weird but very cool song entitled "Last Night's Wine".

As always, when I hang or write with Amanda I have a great time. But another inevitability involved in writing with Amanda is discussing "the business" . I cherish these talks and look forward to them almost as much as the creation process. Amanda is a highly highly knowledgable young woman, her main area of expertise is music (although she is definitely not limited to only music), AND to top it all off, she typically thinks similarly to me.

We tend to LEAN toward music topics, but it isn't strange for us to touch on Hindu Vedas, what seasons are best for growing which crops, Star Wars, home schooling, website design, and virtually ANYTHING else.

During our talks today we grazed a familiar topic for us.....Copyrights.

At first my mind focuses, as it usually does when thinking of this subject, to illegal downloads. I think of the song writer and performers who dump insane amounts of time and money into the production (or have money dumped into these productions by a third party which is rightfully expecting to get reimbursed with interest). These artists are finding it harder and harder to continue producing high quality music simply because society is refusing to pay them for their craft. The public loves the music but has devalued it. This devaluation is negatively impacting the ability to create the same quality albums as used to be made. But since we have covered this topic umpteen million times my mind quickly wanders.

My mind wanders to specific copyrights and the infringement upon them. Then it takes the next step; pondering the all time worst sonic copyright infringements.

I thought of the classic cases: Vanilla Ice snatching "Under Pressure" by Queen,  George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" being derived from "He's So Fine", Huey Lewis' "I Wanna New Drug" ripping Ray Parker Jr's "Ghostbusters", Offspring's "Why Don't You Get a Job?" being "Obla Di Obla Da" by the Beatles, the list goes on and on and on

Then my mind leapt to an entire different level. There was a sonic victim that had been stolen from so much more severely than anyone on my list. The man I was thinking of was really a meta-victim. He had been stolen from on the level of sonic transmission.

The meta-victim was Nicolai Tesla. In addition to being ripped off and under appreciated on a myriad of other situations, Tesla basically had the credit for radio broadcasting taken from him.

I can imagine the pain of John Lennon's corpse must have felt when it was rolling over in such a confined space as the airwaves of 1998-1999 were filled with these horribly bastardized version of "Ob la di, Ob la da". I'm guessing Lennon's remains were thankful for the 6 feet of Earth and the coffin lid that at least somewhat muffled the screeching vocals and horrid lyrics of the uncredited remake.

But as horrible a feeling as that must have been, I have to think it was a warm comfy bath when compared to having one steal the entire idea of radio transmission itself, as Tesla did.

Think about that. Tesla thought up the concept of broadcast. And gets little credit.

Oh I forgot to mention that Tesla also developed A/C current. This is relevant to music because even if you some how think music could eventually have been passed hand to hand via some other method than broadcast, Tesla's ideas would still be needed to provide electricity to whatever device that's reproducing the music to be heard (excluding player pianos, music boxes, and sheet music, but I'm thinking few people would want to exchange their iPod for a music box for each song they would like to hear or a folder of sheet music and an ensemble to perform said sheet music. Without Tesla it gets cumbersome to say the least).

At first Tesla wasn't at war with Marconi (the man credited with the first radio broadcast across the Atlantic Ocean, and given the moniker "Father of Radio"), as a matter of fact when Marconi was getting accolades for creating this new thing called "radio", Tesla cleverly said, "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents."
This light hearted feeling toward the Marconi praise changed once Marconi was given the Nobel Prize in 1911 (for basically "creating" what Tesla had already devised). 

Tesla attempted to sue Marconi but Tesla was broke, Marconi and his constituents weren't broke. I therefore shouldn't need to tell you how that one ended.

Months after Tesla's death the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Tesla's patents (NOTE: the U.S. Supreme Court did this only to get back at Marconi for other lawsuits involving Marconi's patents which the U.S. had used in WWI. Tesla only gets love when it's convenient for other people, and even then it is posthumously).

So the next time I turn on the radio to a John Mayer song that musically sounds exactly like "Sexual Healing" I will still be angry on behalf of Marvin. But from here forward I will think of this broadcasting device (and any other broadcasting device) and think of its shady beginnings. I will still be angry on behalf of Marvin (and cowriter David Ritz) of course, but I will have an extra chip on my shoulder for Tesla.

He didn't have his song stole. He had the ability to play every song ever stolen. 

Nicolai Tesla, the meta-victim of sonic infringement.